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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 27 Jan 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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New Book ‘Unveiling the Ideal’ explores the role of women in Islam

Were there women in Islamic history?

Photo-shy Muslim women should not vote: SC

Ban Muslim face veils, France told

Stay away from book on Muslim women, Muslims advised

Step out & contest polls, Jamaat tells Muslim women, hundreds turn up

A Muslim in Bristol: Confident women are viewed with suspicion

Moro women leaders oppose warlordism, want role in peace process

What’s in a headscarf: France mulls ban

India denies visa to British Muslim woman for meeting: Report

PM called on to consider ban on burqa

New Study Looks at Challenges Faced by Germany's Muslims

Majority of Britons want burqa ban: Poll

Muslim feminists deserve to be heard

Al-Qaeda Woman? Putting Aafia Siddiqui on Trial

AMERICAN MUSLIMS: Women behaving badly in mosques

Frontline Females- Unlocking the World of Afghan Women

Status of face-covering veils Muslim around Europe

Women in Pakistan forge ahead against bias in politics

Indonesian Women Come Into Their Own

France Moves toward Ban of Full Muslim Veil

Burqa Unwelcome in Denmark: PM

Muslim women take on peace advocacy roles

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL of this Page:‘unveiling-ideal’-explores/d/2424


New Book ‘Unveiling the Ideal’ explores the role of women in Islam

By Habib Shaikh

Someone wise once said “Man is born free, but everywhere he is found in chains.” How well this fits the situation Muslims face today. In an increasingly widespread effort to denigrate Islam and its followers, Muslim women have been projected as oppressed and as having little or no rights, even though it is Islam that first liberated women from the evils practised during the time of ‘jahiliyya’ (pre-Islamic age of ignorance), when girls were buried alive.

Here a poet’s famous part of a couplet comes to mind when talking about unresolved women’s issues: “A veil has fallen over men’s eyes.” This rings true today; the historic landmark status accorded to women by Islam more than 1,400 years ago has been forgotten, so much so that misrepresentation, and misunderstanding have become more and more prevalent, often perpetuated by Muslims themselves.

The book “Unveiling the Ideal: A New Look at Early Muslim Women” by Shayan Afzal Khan, therefore comes across as a refreshing attempt to set the record straight. Published in Malaysia by Sisters In Islam - a non-governmental organization which seeks to end discrimination against women in the name of religion - is a collection of stories of women in Islam, who were strong in both intellect and character.

The book is presented in an effort to break the stereotypical Western image of Muslim women as suppressed. It stresses that the facet of their lives as contributing, valuable members of the society - particularly outside the sphere of their homes - has often been overlooked, and even ignored.

The stories compiled in the book depict early Muslim women as ones who took an active part in all aspects of community life, including religion and warfare. The communities not only accepted their contribution, but also awarded them a fairly high status as reward.

The book’s preface explains that the Holy Qur’an introduced reforms, enhanced the status of women and protected the rights of the less-fortunate members of society (e.g. the disabled and poor). It adds that these reforms were “a first step in trying to change deeply-entrenched patriarchal attitudes and traditions that reduced women to mere chattels, without rights of their own, in a society dominated by men.”

What is saddening, is that even though it is recognized that Islam ushered in a higher status for women - giving them significant rights and more dignity than ever before - there seems to be a complicity of silence to further the true image of Islam vis-a-vis women.

Besides being homemakers, these women were noted for the use of pen as well as wielding the sword or the spear, they were scholars, and poets, they played an active role on the battlefield, and were a source of political counsel and religious guidance to the caliphs, as well as ordinary men and women.

Warriors, tycoons, scholars and social workers

The book revisits the accounts of the lives of the more prominent women who lived at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) and the ensuing period.

Included are all the wives of the Prophet (pbuh) from Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, whose stature can be summed up in what the Prophet himself said that while “the best of women in her time was Mary … the best of the women of her own time was Khadijah.” Because of constraint of space, mention can only be made, in brief, of just another wife of the Prophet (pbuh) –Aishah bint Abu Bakr, and among the others, of Umm Umara or Nusaybah bint Kab.

Aishah was endowed with a powerful memory, so soon became a scholar and a legal interpreter. After the Prophet’s (pbuh) death, she was consulted on Sunnah, and on issues relating to the Hadith (Traditions of the Prophet) and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). Her advice was also sought on inheritance law.

Referring to her knowledge of Islam, the Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said, “Learn a portion of your religion (deen) from this red-colored lady,” meaning Aishah, who was called ‘Humayra’ (meaning red-colored) by the Prophet (pbuh).

In numerous accounts she comes out as strong-minded, outspoken, intelligent, with a sense of humor, decisive, resolute and enjoying a definite rapport with people. Abu Bakr entrusted many responsibilities to her. He is reported to have given her the charge of “disposing of certain public funds and properties as well as distributing his own property among his other adult children.”

The story of Umm Umara is touching as well as inspiring. She not only played a significant role in the battles of Uhud, Khaybar, Hunayan, and the Truce of Hudaiybiyyah, where she received numerous wounds and even lost her hand fighting in the Battle of Yamama, but also devoted herself to imparting religious education to women, as she was well-versed in the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

It is reported that when Umar ibn Al-Khattab once brought some silk garments and sheets, which people suggested he give as gifts to his son’s wife, he said, “I will send it to someone who is more entitled to it than her – Umm Umara Nusaybah bint Kab. On the day of Uhud, I heard the Messenger of Allah say, ‘Whenever I looked to the right or the left, I saw her fighting in front of me.’”

The above are just three of a total of 51 stories recounted in the book. There have been many such women since then that one can find gathering dust in the pages of history, because Muslims have chosen to relegate them there.

“Unveiling the Ideal” is written in simple and lucid style. It also has such relevant useful information such as references for those who want to delve deep, a chronology and glossary of words. - SG


Were there women in Islamic history?

26 January 2010

This article is written to present an historical background for those who are "looking for" veiled writers, for those who have "found/not found" them, and for those who defend them saying, "they were always there; you didn't see them." For the question, "Were there women in Islamic history," still lies behind all these questions and answers as a determining question/verdict.

The beginning of discussion regarding women in the Islamic world in the form of "Were there women in Islamic history" as a claim and counter-claim falls at a time when we were experiencing defeats from the West and when we were doubtful about ourselves.

What did Orientalists say? "Islam is oppressive for women. This is the reason for backwardness in Muslim societies." According to Leyla Ahmed, if we want to express the Orientalist works in one sentence, we can summarize it like this. In other words, when looked at within an Orientalist framework, this picture appears: Muslim women did not contribute to history; they were either sold in slave markets or cloistered in harems as sex objects.

When looked at from the West's point of view, the East, especially the Islamic world, is seen as a huge harem. Of course, there are some distinct reasons why the West nurtured such an image regarding Muslim women. For while Europe was establishing its own identity, it placed the East, the Islamic world in particular, in a counter position as its opposite. It needed an image of the East that was loaded with all negative characteristics. This was built on the stereotype of the imprisoned, oppressed woman. As can be seen in Montesquieu's Persian Letters, criticism of civil and governmental injustice and arbitrary administration was always made via the harem.


The placement of an oppressed and submissive Muslim woman image in the center of the imagination of Westerners took place at the same time as the foundation of the British and French empires in the 19th century. In other words, there is a direct relation between these images and imperialism and the legitimization of imperialism. This legitimization did not end with the 19th century. While in the 21st century America legitimized both the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, it used the stereotype of the "oppressed woman in a burqa." These stereotypes of the Orientalists influenced the self-image of Muslims who were trying to face up to defeat by the West. We adopted an image of ourselves refracted in their view of us and modern history has passed by producing answers to these Orientalist prejudices. It can be said that we have still not escaped from this defensive position.

Full report at:


Photo-shy Muslim women should not vote: SC

Rakesh Bhatnagar

Jan 22, 2010

If having photographs on election identity cards and electoral rolls defies religious tenets and betrays sentiments of a section of Muslim women, it is for them to decide whether to vote or not.

“If they are so religious, don’t vote,” a bench of chief justice KG Balakrishnan and justice Deepak Verma remarked on Friday. They were hearing an appeal by Tamil Nadu’s (TN’s) Ajmal Khan against the election commission’s (EC’s) mandate to carry photo identity cards for voting.

Khan also raised brows at EC publishing electoral rolls with photos of Muslim women.

“What these women would do if they were to contest elections,” the bench asked Khan’s counsel V Balaji, pointing out that during elections, posters carrying photographs of candidates are put up all over a constituency.

Balaji said it was against the tenets of Islam for a Muslim woman to get photographed without a veil (burqa).He argued that the Holy Quran laid down that Muslim women wear burqa and cover their faces.

The face of a Muslim woman can only be seen by her husband or close relatives, he said.

As such, he said, EC should not take photographs of Muslim women without veils or unveiled photographs should not be given to any other person.

“Such a law violates Article 25 of the Constitution that guarantees right to practice any religion of one’s choice,” the counsel said, seeking to unveil a constitutional issue hidden in the case.

Full report at: /


Ban Muslim face veils, France told


Photo: BAN PROPOSED: A woman wearing a niqab shops in a supermarket in Leers, northern France. France's National Assembly has been advised that it should pass a resolution denouncing full Muslim face veils.

France's National Assembly should pass a resolution denouncing full Muslim face veils and then vote the strictest law possible to ban women from wearing them, a parliamentary commission has proposed.

Presenting conclusions after six months of hearings, the panel also suggested barring foreign women from obtaining asylum or French citizenship if they insisted on veiling their faces.

But it could not agree whether to opt for an absolute ban on the veils, known here as burqas or niqabs, or one restricted to public buildings because some members thought a total ban would be unconstitutional.

"The full veil represents in an extraordinary way everything that France spontaneously rejects," National Assembly President Bernard Accoyer said as the commission delivered its report.

"It's a symbol of the subjugation of women and the banner of extremist fundamentalism."

While not defending the all-enclosing veils, leaders of the five-million-strong Muslim minority say a legal ban would be excessive since fewer than 2,000 women are said to wear them.

Jamel Debbouze, a highly popular Parisian-born comedian of Moroccan background, condemned the plan as xenophobic. "People who go down that path are racists," he told French radio.

The veil issue has become linked with another controversial debate about national identity that the government launched only months before regional elections in March. "This debate is sterile and dangerous electioneering," Debbouze said.

Supporters of a ban say civil servants need a law to allow them to turn away fully veiled women who cannot be identified when they seek municipal services such as medical care, child support or public transport.

Full report at: /


Stay away from book on Muslim women, Muslims advised

Jan 26, 10

The book 'Muslim Women and The Challenge of Islamic Extremism' can create doubt and disharmony among the people in the country, according to the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM).

Its director general, Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz Wan Mohamad said the contents of the book contravened the Islamic Publication Materials Censorship Guidelines issued by Jakim in 1996.

"Several obvious errors were found (in the book)," he said in a statement today.

He said among others, the book stated that Islamic family laws and Syariah criminal laws were promoting prejudice and discrimination against women.

The book also questioned the fatwa institution and the ban on non-Islamic scholars from discussing Islamic issues. It also promoted the re-interpretation of the verses in the Quran, especially those on gender bias, he said.

Wan Mohamad said the book had been scrutinised, checked and referred to the Islamic Publication Materials Censorship Committee chaired by the Mufti of Perak, Harussani Zakaria.

"Hence, Muslims in the country are advised to be wary of reading materials which contravene Islamic teachings. If in doubt, refer to the guidelines issued by Jakim," he said.

Wan Mohamad said Jakim also respected the High Court's decision yesterday to lift the ban on the book, but felt that it was its responsibility to explain to the public on the errors found in any Islamic book in the market.

- Bernama


Step out & contest polls, Jamaat tells Muslim women, hundreds turn up

Shaju Philip

Jan 25, 2010

Thiruvananthapuram : Hundreds of purdah-clad women attended a meeting late into the night as the Jamaat-e-Islami held a convention exclusively for women in Kerala’s Malappuram on Sunday. While the slogan was ‘women power for social revolution’, the Jamaat admitted its goal was to encourage them to take the plunge into the coming local body elections, where 50 per cent of the seats would be reserved for women.

Except Jamaat-e-Islami Kerala chief T Arifali, all the speakers on the dais were women. The spadework for the event was done almost exclusively by Jamaat women, who went around with campaign material, sometimes disregarding protests from orthodox segments.

“Muslim women should surge ahead in socio-political spheres after proving their ability. In the three-tier panchayati raj system, 50 per cent of the seats are reserved for women. The next elections are a great opportunity as well as a heavy responsibility. Prove your mettle,” urged K K Fathima Suhara, the president of the women’s wing of the Jamaat. 

The call to women to become active in politics is another milestone in the history of the Jamaat which had exhorted its members to abstain from electoral politics until the Emergency. The organisation, which is now pro-Left in Kerala, recently announced its plans to have own political party.

“The discussions are on at various levels. Even if the political party does not materialise before the elections to the local bodies, we would explore the possibility of fielding independent candidates. The women’s conference was held with an eye on that,” Mujeeb Rahman, a state-level leader of the Jamaat, said.

Among those who addressed the gathering, through videoconference, was British journalist Yvonne Ridley. A war correspondent, she famously converted to Islam after she was captured by the Taliban while reporting from Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11.

The Jamaat attempts, however, have evoked a sharp protest from the Sunnis, a powerful Muslim segment in the state. Its chief, Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker Musaliyar, said it was highly deplorable that women were being “paraded in public” in such a conference. “Advocating freedom of women does not mean a licence to breach the boundaries of Islam. They have violated Islamic tenets regarding bringing out women for public functions,” claimed Musaliyar.

However, social critics and observers of Muslim politics feel the conservatives would be forced to change their stand very soon. “With 50 per cent seats for women in local bodies becoming a reality, the Sunni faction would be left with little choice but to abandon their orthodoxy,” said Prof N M Karassery.

Full report at:


A Muslim in Bristol: Confident women are viewed with suspicion

January 26, 2010

Local BBC radio recently invited me to comment on the UKIP proposal to ban the burkah; deemed to encompass all that is alien about Islam.

So what is the traditional dress for women in this country; the mini-skirt? Hardly. Ironically, the closest to the traditional dress (for women) in this country, if indeed there is such a thing, is the hijab (the headscarf). Oh, I can so hear the tsunami of disbelieving gasps. But it is true. Whether you go back to the Victorian days, or to long before that, the headscarf has been part of the traditional outdoor dress for women of this nation. But I do digress; let's us return to the debate at hand.

So, is the burkah part of Islamic teachings or not? Frankly, it's irrelevant. In the context of banning the burkah in this country, it really does not matter what Islam says on the subject. When any government decides what we can or can not wear in this country it will, sadly, be the beginning of the end of our freedoms. As long as no woman is being forced to wear anything she doesn't want to, there really should be no issue for anyone.

But, having touched on the rights of Muslim women in western society, I am compelled to touch on the rights of Muslim women in Muslim society, because that's where the problem is.

The Prophet Muhammad said "men and women are as equal as the teeth of comb. The only difference God sees is in your piety (in your righteousness)".

It's a far cry from the male chauvinist world that Muslim cultural society has today become.

Examples of the apparent maltreatment of Muslim women are the real reason for the burkah debate; non-Muslim society sees it as a part of a wider oppression of Muslim women.

Up until recently, naively, I would have denied such things; blaming the media for misunderstandings and misrepresentation – and often it is. But the reality is that I have now seen one-too-many examples of where the plight of Muslim women is little more than that of second-class citizens.

Full report at:


Moro women leaders oppose warlordism, want role in peace process

Romy Elusfa


DAVAO CITY— Around 100 Muslim women religious leaders participating in a three-day regional peace conference in the city voiced opposition to “warlordism" in the country, even as they assert their right to take part in the peace processes in Mindanao.

On the first day of the January 25-27 Regional Conference on Women and Peace Advocates (RCWPA), participating Muslim women religious scholars (Aleemat) declared their opposition to warlordism saying that Islam does not tolerate it.

Dr. Charina Isahac, a dentist from Jolo town in Sulu, said that at a province-wide consultation, the women in her province voiced opposition to the presence Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO), which she said were armed by politicians.

Moreover, she said women opposed the move to organize and recruit Women Police Auxiliary Unit (PAU) in Sulu, adding that those being recruited “are identified with political leaders."

“We asked them (government officials) to dismantle the PAU. We are genuinely concerned about that," Isahac said.

Aside from opposing warlordism, the Aleemat also lamented that women are not represented in the peace processes in Mindanao, arguing that they (women) are in the best position to advance peace.

“There had been no women named to whatever posts in any of the peace-process panel. We the women nurture life and are therefore the best peace builders and advocates," said former Senator Santanina Rasul, who was in the women conference.

Rasul also said that the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration has no more time to change the members of the peace panel for Mindanao.

She said they would rather wait for the next administration with whom they would lobby for Moro women membership to the negotiating panel, adding that she would discuss the matter with Secretary Anabelle Abaya, who will be joining in the ongoing regional peace conference on Monday.

Full report at: /


What’s in a headscarf: France mulls ban

(AFP) 26 January 2010

PARIS - Conservative Muslim women cover their hair in an array of fashions — French members of parliament are keen to outlaw some of them.

Muslim women are not alone in concealing their hair — ultra-Orthodox Jewish women wear headscarves and some Protestant Christian minority communities also exhort their women to cover their hair.

The following are some of the major Muslim traditions for female headgear:

HIJAB: A headscarf not a veil that is championed by Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood which are legal in some Arab countries.

BURQA: The full veil worn by conservative Muslims in countries like Afghanistan, where it is enforced by the Taliban militia fighting US-led forces.

NIQAB: A veil that covers the mouth and nose but not the eyes that is advocated by some Muslim hardliners in Egypt but does not have the sanction of Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University.

CHADOR: The full cloak that covers the body and the hair that is traditionally worn in countries like Iran and Afghanistan but is not obligatory.


India denies visa to British muslim woman for meeting: Report

26 January 2010

India reportedly denied a visa to British journalist and former Taliban captive Yvonne Ridley who was to address a Muslim women's conference in Kerala.

India reportedly denied a visa to British journalist and former Taliban captive Yvonne Ridley who was to address a Muslim women's conference in Kerala.

Gulf Times reported, that Ridley, who converted to Islam after her release, was to inaugurate the conference themed "women power for social revolution" organised by the women's wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami in Kerala's Muslim-dominated Malappuram district on Sunday evening.

Tens of thousands of women attended the conference.

"I have great respect for Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence and we have been practising this in Gaza protests. But I don't know why I have been denied a visa to visit Gandhi's land," the report quoted Ridley as telling the meeting through videoconferencing.

"I was quite surprised by the Indian response. I didn't expect this and it appears mysterious," said Ridley. "There are forces that are out to damage the image of democratic India."

The journalist currently works for Iran's Press TV network.


PM called on to consider ban on burka

By Kathleen Harris, Parliamentary Bureau Chief

26th January 2010

OTTAWA — The Muslim Canadian Congress is calling on the Conservative government to follow France’s proposal to consider a ban on the burka.

“It’s a control thing, identifying with Muslim brotherhood,” senior vice-president Salma Siddiqui said. “Basically it is a subservient tool.”

She said “political correctness” is preventing politicians from tackling the sensitive subject. Her group plans to lobby politicians from all parties in May.

But Liberal MP Marlene Jennings said Canada’s charter rights protect religious freedom, and the Supreme Court has consistently ruled not to impose any limits.

“Canadian women have the right, if they want, to wear a burka,” she said. “As a woman, clearly it makes me a little uncomfortable. But then there are other practices that are perfectly legal and acceptable that make people uncomfortable.”

Jennings said the government should do more to raise awareness about gender equality in Canada, but ultimately it must remain an individual choice on how to behave in one’s personal life.

The controversy comes after France issued a report proposing a partial ban on the burka and niqab. The report says the wearing of a full veil represents “everything France rejects” as a symbol of enslavement of women and extremist fundamentalism.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said Canada must send strong messages about equality of women but reject calls to follow France’s lead.

“It goes without saying they should not be subjected to pressures from their communities, but neither from their government,” she said. “It’s not the place of the government to dictate how women should dress.”


New Study Looks at Challenges Faced by Germany's Muslims

By Sheila Lalwani in Berlin


'We Are Not Really Germans'

Many women in Germany who wear the headscarf say they experience barriers to employment, according to a new survey published by the Open Society Institute.

Many women in Germany who wear the headscarf say they experience barriers to employment, according to a new survey published by the Open Society Institute.

It's no secret that many immigrants have a hard time in Germany. A new study has found that women wearing headscarves have a particularly hard time on the job market and a quarter of those with Turkish backgrounds face discrimination when looking for work.

It is early afternoon at Internet Treffpunkt, a convenience store in Kreuzberg, a neighborhood in Berlin that is home to many Turks and other minorities. Hedi Dashti, the store's proprietor, is busy. One customer hands over her parcel to send through his DHL counter. Another customer buys cigarettes. The door swings open, ushering in the blustery winter wind, and a third customer waves hello.

Dashti -- an immigrant from Iraq who fled to Germany 20 years ago with his family -- speaks to customers in English, German and his mother tongue, Kurdish. He has adjusted to life in Germany and made German friends, while also maintaining his religious identity: Dashti is a practicing Muslim, abstains from eating pork and observes Friday prayers.

And despite occasionally feeling like an outsider, he really wishes he had German citizenship. ''We are not really Germans, but Germany is our country,'' Dashti said.

It is a dilemma shared by many of Germany's approximately four million Muslims. And a new survey supports the widespread feeling of dislocation that many of them feel.

Far from Encouraging

Full report at:,1518,674140,00.html


Majority of Britons want burqa ban: Poll

Wed, 27 Jan 2010

Significant majorities of Britons support bans on the burqa and niqab, women's garments that fully cover the body and face respectively, a poll revealed.

According to an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll, there is less support for a ban on the hijab in the UK, the headscarf that covers Muslim women's hair, UPI reported.

At least two-thirds of 2,001 respondents said they support bans on the burqa and niqab, with 72 percent wanting the burqa banned in all public places and 66 percent the niqab.

Both garments cover the entire body with the burqa, including a net veil over the eyes.

A larger percentage, 79 percent, would support forbidding women from wearing burqas at schools and universities and in airports, while 75 percent would ban the niqab at schools and 85 percent in airports.

However, 75 percent say there should be no public bans on hijabs.


Muslim feminists deserve to be heard

January 28, 2010

Women don't have to give up Islam for rights, argue Randa Abdel-Fattah and Susan Carland.

Orientalists writing on Islam and Muslims have tended to represent Muslim women as infantilised and oppressed, victims in need of rescue by the enlightened West. This is a classic example of the tyranny of self-projection, where the ''rescuer'' assumes a position of superiority so the belief systems, values and norms of Muslim women are judged against the Western experience.

The work of Muslim human rights and social justice advocates is discredited and ignored. It is as if liberation and freedom are the monopoly of secular feminists. Muslim women are apparently too down-trodden to care to make a difference.

If they do insist on fighting for equality and justice within an Islamic perspective, their efforts are dismissed, assuming freedom and Islam are mutually exclusive, or, worse, that Muslim women are brainwashed, suffering from a form of religious Stockholm syndrome.

This patronising discourse arrogantly assumes the way to overcome patriarchy is to abandon Islam and adopt ''Western values''. How can a constructive effort to improve the situation of women begin when the conversation is so unsophisticated, demeaning and primitive?

Muslim women have engaged in the quest for dignity, democracy and human rights, for full participation in political and social affairs, since the time of Prophet Mohammed. As Amina Wadud, the American-Islamic feminist scholar, said: ''By going back to primary sources and interpreting them afresh, women scholars are endeavouring to remove the fetters imposed by centuries of patriarchal interpretation and practice.''

And although you may not hear much about them, Muslim women and men are doing much to improve the plight of women, from grassroots projects to legal activism and religious leadership training. They see Islam not as a stumbling block to progress, but as a platform for change.

Full report at:


Al-Qaeda Woman? Putting Aafia Siddiqui on Trial

By Petra Bartosciewicz

Jan. 18, 2010

This week the trial of Aafia Siddiqui, once one of the most wanted women in the war on terrorism, begins in a federal courtroom in Manhattan. Siddiqui, 37, an MIT-educated neuroscientist and suspected al-Qaeda operative, is charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting at a group of U.S. soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan. The incident occurred in the city of Ghazni in July 2008, after she was detained by local police near one of the city's mosques on suspicion that she was a suicide bomber. At the time of her arrest she allegedly had with her a flash drive with references to specific "cells" and "enemies," and various chemicals cached in cold-cream jars, including a quantity of sodium cyanide. Prosecutors say that the following day, as a contingent of U.S. soldiers and FBI agents prepared to question her at a nearby police station, Siddiqui grabbed an unsecured M4 automatic rifle from one of the soldiers and opened fire. She hit no one but was herself shot twice in the abdomen by a U.S. warrant officer.

What jurors will not hear when opening statements begin on Tuesday, however, are the strange events leading up to Siddiqui's arrest, which have made her case one of the most baffling in the war on terrorism. For over a decade Siddiqui lived and studied in the U.S., but shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks she was linked by law enforcement to a number of terrorism suspects. Among them is Majid Khan, a former resident of Baltimore, who was allegedly tasked by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to plan terrorist attacks in the U.S. In March 2003 Khan was picked up by Pakistani intelligence, who eventually handed him over to the CIA. Just two weeks later the FBI issued an urgent alert seeking Siddiqui for questioning. But Siddiqui, who by then had moved back to her native Pakistan, had vanished without a trace. Khan, who is now a high-value detainee at Guantánamo Bay, has never been formally charged with any crime.

Human-rights groups, however, believe Siddiqui is no extremist and that she, along with her three young children (two of whom are American-born), was illegally detained and interrogated by Pakistani intelligence, likely at the behest of the U.S. In 2007 she was named a missing person in a briefing paper on U.S. responsibility for what is called "enforced disappearances" that was authored by six leading human-rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Full report at:,8599,1954598,00.html


AMERICAN MUSLIMS: Women behaving badly in mosques


JANUARY 18, 2010

Women in American mosques are loud and messy. They allow their children to run free, and they socialize and chatter during khutbas. They rush out after the prayers and don’t participate in cleaning or re-organizing the space. They wear inappropriate clothes, allow their scarves to slip off their heads, and douse themselves with strong perfumes. They come to the mosque during their periods, and pollute the space with their uncleanly presence. These stereotypes about women in mosques are common and prevalent in American mosques.

Many Muslim American men attest to seeing or hearing of this behavior during Friday prayers at their local mosques. What would not be so obvious to the casual observer, like the majority of Muslim men who have never entered or prayed in a women’s prayer section, is the root cause of these problems.

We theorize that the reason for our community’s perception that women behave badly in mosques is tied to a belief that women’s spirituality and prayers are less important than men’s. This message of inferiority has settled into both the ritualistic and social practices of American Muslims, and explains both the negative treatment of women in mosques and the behaviors they exhibit because of this treatment.

The belief is so deeply ingrained in American Muslims that it is practiced in all social and religious contexts. For instance, even at dinner parties, Muslim men usually socialize in larger, neater, and child-free spaces, and they pray together in a jamaath. The women, on the other hand, haphazardly pray (or don’t pray) on their own wherever they can find the space, and are expected to focus their attention on their children and on serving the meals and cleaning up afterwards. This paradigm of spiritual male superiority is clearly carried over into the mosque, where men’s spaces are invariably larger, quieter, and free of children. This is clearly more problematic at mosques then dinner parties, however, and a deep concern for the many professional Muslim women who are struggling to reconcile their experiences in mosques with the respect with which they are treated in other contexts.

This treatment of women is in contravention to the Quran and Prophetic tradition, which equate the value of men and women’s worship and spirituality. The Quran provides that Allah has reserved His forgiveness and rewards for all people who follow His path. The fact that He explicitly mentions both men and women in each line, rather than just saying “people,” emphasizes this gender equality:

Full report at:


Frontline Females- Unlocking the World of Afghan Women

January 15, 2010

22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment Story by Staff Sgt. Christine Jones

Afghanistan - It's a scene that has played itself out countless times across this war-torn country. A team of Soldiers passes through a doorway into a room. Women and children stare back at them. Their eyes seem to show their resignation, and perhaps, indignation, at the intrusion into their homes.

But this time it is different.

As the women and children inside the home look at these service members from different lands, they see something different looking back at them –


"We came along to search any females, to reassure them of coalition forces' good intentions," said Capt. Karolyn Miller, commander of headquarters and headquarters company, 97th Military Police Battalion from Fort Riley, Kan.

Miller, a Baltimore, Md. native, and her four-woman team are currently deployed to Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

"We've modeled ourselves after the female engagement teams the Marines have in the Helmand province," Miller said. "Women and children felt a lot more comfortable when maneuver forces were coming through if they saw females there."

Miller's female engagement team conducted its second mission Jan. 10 in Rajan Qala village during Operation Fazilat in the Arghandab river valley. They were assisting Afghan national police, U.S. and Canadian forces with a coalition effort to clear the area of improvised explosive devices and establish a presence in the community.

Canadian army Cpl. Melissa Gagnon of Thunder Bay, Ontario, worked with the team for the day.

"They actually smiled when we came in," Gagnon said. "It seems like there may not have been women here before."

Coalition forces are building bonds with the women and children in the villages because these children are the future of Afghanistan, Miller said. In many ways, she feels, Afghan parents are like parents everywhere.

"I think they want what is good for their children, too," Miller said. "We talk to them as much as we can about education, making sure their children go to school so they have opportunities other than joining up with gangs or the insurgency when they grow up."

Sitarn Shah has been an interpreter since she returned to Afghanistan from California nine months ago. A student of Islam and a practicing Muslim, it is important to her for Afghan children to know what the Koran actually says.

Full report at:


Status of face-covering veils Muslim around Europe

January 15, 2010

-- - FRANCE: After passing 2004 law banning Muslim headscarves and other "ostentatious" religious symbols from classrooms, France's government submitted a draft law this week on a ban on face-covering veils. The bill could be debated this spring.

- NETHERLANDS: The Dutch government considered but abandoned legislation in 2006 for a total ban on Muslim veils, after lawyers said it would likely be unconstitutional. Instead, it said it would seek a ban on face-covering veils in all schools and prevent government employees from wearing them. No legislation has yet been passed.

- BRITAIN: The issue of full-body veils has largely faded from the spotlight since then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair called it a "mark of separation" in 2006. The coverings are more visible on the streets of London than many other European cities.

- ITALY: Has a law requiring people to keep their faces visible in public, dating to Italy's crackdown on domestic terrorism decades ago. Representatives of Italy's Muslim community say it's rarely applied in the case of women wearing veils.


- BELGIUM: The mayor of Maaseik banned face-covering veils in 2004, but there is no general ban across the country.

- GERMANY: Several states in the country, which has a large Muslim immigrant community, have banned teachers from wearing headscarves in public schools.

- SWITZERLAND: The Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said in November the government could "study a possible ban" of face-covering veils if more Muslim women begin wearing them. She said they make her feel "uncomfortable."

- UNITED STATES: Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences this month banned veils that obscure the face for security reasons. A Muslim rights group is asking the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces anti-discrimination laws, to investigate.

Full report


Women in Pakistan forge ahead against bias in politics

by Hamid Hussain, Yangtze Yan


    ISLAMABAD, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani women are forging ahead in the political platform against the traditional discrimination facing their approach to politics as other basic rights of life varies considerably across classes and regions in the Muslim country.

    At a workshop on the role of Pakistani women in politics held on Thursday in the capital of Islamabad, the speakers urged political leaders of different parties to empower women wings of their parties and demanded restoration of six seats for women in the union councils of local governments.

    A large number of office bearers of women wings of different political parties, representatives of civil society organizations and women councilors, participated in the conference sponsored by PATTAN, a non-profit and non-governmental development organization.

    They said that Pakistani women have limited political role in political parties and political women said they have no role in the party decision-making and women are being maltreated by the male-oriented setup in Pakistan.

    The rural/urban division is also a reason for uneven socioeconomic development and the impact of tribal, feudal, and capitalist social formations on women's lives, they said.

    Presenting the key findings of a Baseline Study on Presence and Status of Women in Political Parties across Pakistan, PATTAN National Coordinator Sarwar Bari said the political parties are backbone of democracy and without involving half of Pakistan's population in political processes the country can't move forward in any field.

    Bari said women's contribution to agriculture and informal sector is crucial and girls/women perform better than boys/men in education but their participation in decision-making has been very low.

    The research data indicates that only 51 percent district chapters of political parties in Pakistan have formed women wings. Almost all the women wings were formed through nomination process carried out by their party leadership. It also shows that women wings of most parties lack powers and authority as all their offices position had been appointed by male party leaders.

Full report at:


Indonesian Women Come Into Their Own

By Terry Lacey

Friday, 15 January 2010

A growing number of women lead influential government agencies

"The tide is high but I'm holding on. I´m gonna be your number one." So sang the girl band Atomic Kittens. Indonesia is entering what will become its nuclear age, driven by a huge expansion in energy, with key companies like Pertamina and ministries like Finance, Trade, Energy and Mines led by a new and growing band of women breaking though the glass ceiling.

After initial doubts, Karen Agustiawan keeps her job as president director of Pertamina, Indonesia's top state-owned oil and gas company, while all the directors around her have been washed away by a tsunami of change. Agustiawan is hardly alone across the government, a trend that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted in a speech during her visit to Jakarta year ago as part of the new Obama administration.

"I have to compliment Indonesia for the growing role that women are playing at all levels of society," Clinton said. "And a recognition of the role that women have to play and the opportunities for women to assume leadership positions as many of you in this room have done is another contribution that Indonesia is making. As I travel around the world over the next years, I will be saying to people, if you want to know whether Islam, democracy, modernity, and women's rights can coexist, go to Indonesia."

It has been a long time coming. Indonesian women, working for low wages, have provided the bulk of the work force in multinational factories since the 1970s, when the country started to open to foreign investment. And, although to the outside world they are usually characterized in photos as wearing the hijab, called a jilbab in Indonesia, there are plenty of miniskirts and there is a growing if hard-fought sense of women's role that belies their place in stricter Islamic societies. In Indonesia, often they are running things.

Full report at:


France Moves Toward Ban Of Full Muslim Veil

By Elaine Ganley

January 15, 2010

Faiza Silmi, a 32-year-old Moroccan , walks in a street of Le Mesnil-Saint-Denis, 38 kilometers (24 miles) southwest of Paris, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010. Silmi has taken her plight to the European Court of Human Rights. But her fate could be decided before the case is heard if France passes a law making such dress taboo, which appears increasingly likely. Full-body robes are a rare sight in the streets of France, although France is home to an estimated 5 million Muslims, the largest such population in western Europe. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

LA VERRIERE, France (AP) — The man she married is French, her four children were born in France and she speaks French with only a trace of her native Arabic tongue. Faiza Silmi contends her clothes — a head-to-toe robe and filmy tissue covering her face — are the reason France has denied her citizenship in her adopted land.

The 32-year-old Moroccan may soon be facing an even fiercer blow. A top French lawmaker submitted a draft law this week that would ban such Islamic dress anywhere in public, a measure that would set a European precedent and trap thousands of women between their religious convictions and the law of the land.

"They say I'm too attached to my religion," Silmi told The Associated Press at an empty restaurant near her home southwest of Paris, her large eyes peering from a slit in her veil. "Lots of Christians live in Morocco and we don't make them wear scarves."

Unlike Muslim headscarves, full-body, face-covering robes are a rare sight in the streets of France, home to an estimated 5 million Muslims, the largest such population in western Europe. France's main Muslim leaders have declared that Islam does not require women to cover their faces with niqabs or burqas.

In a country whose national emblem is Marianne, a bare-chested woman, there is deepening concern over the all-encompassing garb, often black or brown and worn with gloves, attire typical in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Here, it is widely viewed as a gateway to radical Islam, an attack on gender equality and other French values, and a gnawing away at the nation's secular foundation.

Full report at:


Burqa Unwelcome in Denmark: PM

Jan. 20, 2010

CAIRO — Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has dismissed face-veils wore by some Muslim women as unwelcome in the Scandinavian country, vowing to restrict them, the Copenhagen Post reported on Wednesday, January 20.

"Neither the burqa nor the niqab have their place in Danish society," Rasmussen has asserted during his weekly press conference.

"We meet each other at eye level, where we can see each other and where we gesticulate with each other."

The comments came a day after a report, commissioned by the Social Affairs Ministry and done by University of Copenhagen researchers, showed that face-veils are only worn by between 100 and 200 Muslim women in the country.

Denmark is home to some 100,000 Muslim women, who represent about 1.9 percent of the country's total population of 5.5 million.

But the prime minister insisted that he is opposed to the principle of face-covering.

"If there was a situation in which my son was being taught in a Danish public school by a teacher in niqab, I couldn’t care less whether this was a fate he shared with three, or three hundred classes in Denmark," he said.

"It’s one niqab too many."

While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear a face veil.

Scholars believe it is up to each woman to decide whether to cover her face or not.


The Danish premier said his centre-right government was mulling ways of limiting face-veil without violating the constitution.

"They symbolize a view of women and humanity that we totally oppose and that we want to combat in Danish society," Rasmussen insisted.

"That is why we don't want to see this garment in Danish society."

But Rasmussen stopped short of calling for a ban on the face-veils, citing "legal and other limits."

The issue has stirred a heated debate in the Scandinavian country and has divided the two-party coalition government since the summer.

The far-right Danish People's Party, the government's key parliamentary ally, has been pressing the government for action on face-veils.

A call by the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) for a blanket ban on burqa has drawn rebuke from British politicians and officials as a violation of religious freedom rights.

France is already drafting a bill to ban the face-veil and fin Muslim women who do that.


Muslim women take on peace advocacy roles

By Mai Gevera

28 January 2010

Davao City  -- Dubbed as the true peacemakers, Muslim women are now tapped in every peace-building activity that only Muslim men used to be involved in.

"It is the in the nature of a woman that makes her the real peacemaker," said Magbassa Kita Foundation Inc chairperson Santanina Rasul during the three-day regional conference on women as peace advocates held at Waterfront Insular Hotel, Davao City on January 24-27.

Around 140 Muslim women from the academe, government, youth and indigenous groups attended the training which focused on conflict prevention and peacemaking as well as civic education that will help them bring in peace in their community.

Rasul stressed that it is about time that Muslim women should be empowered and exercise their capability as peace advocates in their own land. History showed that Muslim women and children were affected most in the long conflict between separatist movements and the military. They suffered from displacement, human rights abuses and poverty.

However, Muslim women's tolerance and resilience to overcome the effects of war have molded them to embrace a role which has long been nature in them.

This pushed the civil society along with foreign-funded organizations to mobilize greater participation of Muslim women.

The Japan Foundation, the Magbassa Kita Foundation (MKFI) and the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) then launched the Noor-us Salam: Women of Faith and Light of Peace, a project that seeks to empower the "aleemat" or Muslim women religious scholars in peace building. (PIA XI)

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